It is the 141st birthday of a writer for whom I can never repay the debt which I owe him.
The clarity of his writing, along with the breadth of his thinking is, quite simply, astonishing to experience (whether or not you agree with him), as is the sheer ridiculousness of his prolificacy.
I refer to G.K. Chesterton, a man who, all pictures to the contrary, was a writer of a profoundly uproarious nature. The humor is sprinkled liberally, throughout his writing.
No less than George Bernard Shaw and H.G. Wells were his almost constant sparring partners – and yet Chesterton’s criticisms were of such a warm nature, that he remained good friends with them; in spite of their disagreements.
I have likened Chesterton’s method as thus: “You’re wrong… and here’s why you’re wrong.”
And then you read what he has to say, and come away with the notion of ‘… ah, well, that’s alright, then…’
He wrote predominately in the style of paradox – that of taking what is commonly held to be true, and turning it back in on itself.
It is a bit of a lost art, and was certainly the largest source of the criticism against him.
But my viewpoint is: if all you can come up with to attack is the way in which he wrote, then the truth of which he wrote must have hit home, after all.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.”
“Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”
“What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism.”
“The simplification of anything is always sensational.”
“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.”
“The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right.”
“A thing may be too sad to be believed or too wicked to be believed or too good to be believed; but it cannot be too absurd to be believed in this planet of frogs and elephants, of crocodiles and cuttle-fish.”
“When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world we have not made. In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.”
The list of quotes is formidable – almost as extensive as the writing itself.
A more eminently quotable author may never have come along before, or be seen again.
(With all due apologies to the Bard…)